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Hawaii’s local prohibitions on genetic seed industry come down

Monday, November 21, 2016 22:31
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Hawaii’s genetic seed industry and about 1,000 jobs that go with it were the big winners in a 30-page ruling handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which is based in San Francisco.

In the ruling, the appellate court found Hawaii’s pesticide laws are sufficiently comprehensive and preclude counties from regulating either pesticides or genetically modified crops.

Companies like Monsanto and Syngenta have long made Hawaii a center for their seed production. After anti-GMO activities turned to local ballot measure to kill the industry, it turned to the courts for protection.

The ordinances were first overturned by the U.S. District Court for Hawaii, and they’ve now been upheld by Appellate decision, so they will not go into effect.

Erased from the books are a Kauai ordinance that would have required disclosures on pesticide use from big companies, and a Big Island ordinance banning new GMO crops, and a measure on island of Maui for a moratorium on GMO farming.

The Ninth Circuit ruling was hailed as good news for Hawaii’s entire agriculture industry by Bennette Misalucha, who heads a trade group for the seed companies.

“The Hawaii Crop Improvement Association welcomes the protection that this decision provides Hawaii’s hard-working farmers and growers for standing up for science and for supporting continued innovation in agriculture,” she said.

The industry’s 1,000 jobs are mostly on Maui, Molokai and Oahu. Hawaii Department of Agriculture Director Scott Enright says statewide voluntarily pesticide reporting is planned. He expects to make an announcement on that program by year end, and says changes were inspired by a recent pesticide study on the island of Kauai.

GMO free areas that have been set up by counties in Oregon, Washington and California are permitted under the high court ruling. Federal law was found to preempt state and local laws when it comes to field trials or experimental GMO crops.

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